It’s common sense to Valley residents: autumn = apples galore. But while folks seem to have the better-known varieties nailed down by now, it’s worth noting that the ones you should really seek out are those referred to as heritage or heirloom.
At their core, these apples are the same as any other that you would come across in a bin at the grocery store. Heirloom apples, however, are cultivars that have survived — or been revived through specific breeding techniques — from the time of antiquity. Varieties can be misshapen, oddly colored, over-sweet, or too sour tasting, and are often unrecognized because they’ve been bred out of modern agriculture by the rise of industrial farming (most grocers sell five or six types of apples, but there are more than 2,000 grown across the US).
Why bother choosing these unique fruits over something familiar? First and foremost, because encouraging the growth of these species helps preserve and maintain biodiversity; if all area crops have the same set of genes, they can be easily wiped out by the same particular pest or disease. This is especially important in our region, where apple and cider production continues its paramountcy. Plus, wouldn’t you like the chance to try apples with a bit more personality? So next time you’re craving that characteristic sweet snap, head to your local farm stand and see what interesting heritage varieties they’re growing.